In a statement delivered at yesterday’s UN Human Rights Council (HRC) Special Session on the situation in Aleppo, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) called on UN Member States to ensure immediate action to protect affected civilians in areas where military activity is taking place. The Council’s urgent session was convened upon the request of the UK and 34 other states on October 17, in response to the interminably deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Aleppo.
The 25th Special Session of the HRC comes amid warnings by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that “the ancient city of Aleppo, a place of millennial civility and beauty, is today a slaughterhouse.” Aleppo’s population of roughly 250,000 civilians, including 100,000 children, remain trapped by violence, in conditions of imminent danger and in dire need of urgent humanitarian assistance.
Since the dramatic escalation of hostilities following the collapse of the September 10 negotiated cessation of hostilities, the Syrian government and its allies have intensified their attack on the city. They have also blocked the delivery of humanitarian supplies, and continue to carry out a campaign of indiscriminate bombardment, including the deliberate targeting of hospitals, medical personnel, schools and other civilian infrastructure. Over the last several days, hundreds of civilians, including children, have been killed or injured.
CIHRS supports the resolution adopted by the Council yesterday and calls for the immediate cessation of hostilities by all parties to the conflict, including all bombardments of and military flights over the city, as well as unhindered immediate and safe humanitarian access to all of Aleppo. The resolution emphasizes the need to hold perpetrators of serious international crimes to account while regarding “the important role that the International Criminal Court can play.” The resolution further mandates the independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria (CoI) to conduct a comprehensive, independent special inquiry into the events in Aleppo, and to identify those believed to be culpable for alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law. The CoI will report its findings to the Council during the upcoming session in March.
The international community has continuously failed to advance accountability for crimes committed in Syria. In this regard, CIHRS called on the Council members to support the position of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights regarding the need to amend the Security Council’s practices in order to address the current deadlock on accountability for international crimes committed in Syria; namely, to adopt criteria in order to “restrain members from using veto powers where there are serious concerns that war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide may have been committed.”
Well over 300,000 Syrians have been killed, countless others wounded and traumatised all over the country. Aleppo is joined by a dozen other besieged locations around the country, where the population remains trapped in life-threatening situations, suffering the perpetuation of the five-year long conflict. Homs, Daraya, Yarmouk and Aleppo are among the many cases where, time after time, civilians have been paying the heaviest price for this ongoing war, as they are slaughtered for political ends.
To date, there has been five special sessions on Syria at the HRC, tens of UN resolutions passed; yet, the international community repeatedly fails to protect civilians, reach a sustainable political solution to the conflict, and address the impunity that has plagued this conflict for the past five years. Many governments today spoke of the need for accountability. The Syrian people do not need rhetorical calls for accountability, they need action. Serious international will is direly needed in order to ensure effective protection of civilians, and put an end to the ongoing atrocities taking place in Syria.
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